National, News

50 years of Juba Nile Bridge: A Lifeline and Symbol of Unity

By Dogga Luwo


In the heart of Juba, the Capital City of South Sudan, stands one of the oldest structures that has become an integral part of the nation’s history-the Juba Nile Bridge.

Constructed in 1974 by the Dutch construction company De Groot International, the Dutch Government contributed more than half of the budget for building the bridge. The two adjacent 252-meter Juba Nile Bridge that spans over the White Nile has become a vital lifeline for the people of South Sudan, providing the only means of crossing over the Nile until 2022.

It was built from two World War II-era bridges, with a total cost of $2.5 million at the time. It became a lifeline for the people of South Sudan, connecting communities and facilitating trade and transportation.

However, in 2010, the bridge suffered an accident that rendered one lane unusable for heavy vehicles. Extensive repair works were carried out, and in January 2012, the bridge was reopened, restoring its function for the nation.

In 2022, a new bridge, the Freedom Bridge was unveiled, located a short distance upstream from the Juba Nile Bridge. The Freedom Bridge, costing over $92 million, now shares the responsibility of providing access across the River Nile.

While the Juba Nile Bridge is no longer the sole crossing point, it remains a symbol of unity and a historic landmark for South Sudan.

As South Sudanese mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic bridge this year under the theme: ‘Building Bridges’ they reflect on its significance and the impact it has had on their lives.

Modi Alphonse, a proud citizen, recognizes that the bridge represents more than just a physical connection between places -it embodies love, justice, liberty, and prosperity.

The Bridge, he says has empowered people to freely interact, promoting unity and progress.

“The Juba Bridge is beyond a physical monumental structure. It signifies love, it signifies justice, it signifies liberty and it signifies prosperity. And this is evident in how people are able to relate with each other across the bridge and how there is freedom of movement and how there are no barriers limiting their freedom to move and how they are willing fully,” he says.

Beyond its symbolic value, he says the bridge stands as a testament to the strong partnership between the governments of former southern Sudan, now South Sudan and the Dutch government.

Modi says the bridge has had a profound impact on humanitarian efforts in the country, stating that it has served as a lifeline, facilitating the delivery of vital supplies to areas like Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria.

He urges citizens to view the Nile Bridge not only as a physical structure but also as a symbol for sustaining friendships and connectivity.

“So, we should be a bridge to ourselves and a bridge to the generations that are yet to come and the generations that have already crossed through our forefathers.”

Connecting people

Jackline Nasiwa, the Executive Director for the Center for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice states that while the bridge connects Juba residents with those across the country and abroad, it also represents how South Sudanese can connect and work together.

“It symbolizes how we should be able to connect with each other as South Sudanese regardless of our tribes and our cultures and all these we need to be connected to each other.”

She says the bridge further sealed the relationship with the people of the Netherlands, asserting the bridge would be used to build bridges of peace.

“We should be making each other and connecting in terms of our good relationship, in terms of our networking and in terms of our peace-building activities as the bridge has been connecting us,” she adds.

To her, this bridge not only connects people across the country but also facilitates meaningful interactions.

“That means if we work together and then we become united and then we become a solid force for this country. And therefore, as we celebrate this bridge, I will say that let it be a symbol that we need to be united as a country.”

“So, this one bridge that was built by the Netherlands is showing us that we as a people can also do our own. So, let this bridge be the beginning that we are reminding ourselves that yes, as South Sudanese we can do it, we can build more bridges, we can build more bridges of peace that could connect us together.”

She continued: “And as women leaders, we ask the Netherlands to continue to support us in building bridges of peace and also to networking among our women.”

Bridging Peace

John Malith Mabor, Senior Project Officer for Pax South Sudan underscored the personal and societal benefits of the bridge.

He notes that residents of Sherikat, East of the Nile including himself, greatly benefit from improved access to vital locations such as the city centre, major markets like Konyo Market, and important government institutions located on the western side of the Nile.

He says the bridge also plays a crucial role in facilitating trade, as South Sudan heavily relies on imports due to the absence of industries and factories.

While reflecting on the theme of “Building Bridges,” Malith extends the metaphor beyond physical infrastructure to his work as a peace worker.

“Just to take it literally from the face of it, building bridges, I have to take it now away from the bridge, the real bridge. So, I want to take it as a metaphor, just something that I can relate or align with the work that I do.”

He highlighted how his role involves reconciling communities, bridging gaps, and enabling access between groups that have been divided by conflict.

Malith acknowledged the challenges faced by the government of South Sudan in fulfilling its social contract with the people, particularly regarding security provision in remote areas.

He stresses the need to bridge the gap between communities and the government, offering assistance and capacity building to enhance security services.

Mabor expresses gratitude to the government of the Netherlands for implementing the project and building the Juba Nile Bridge.


Nelson Kwaje, the Chairperson of Defy Hate Now and the Founder of Scenius Hub, a hub that provides a space for youth and creatives to come together and contribute to nation-building says the bridge has a lot of significance and sentimental value to the country and to the people.

It’s a very important landmark, he says, adding that the theme of building bridges extends beyond physical infrastructure.

Kwaje’s work aligns with the theme of building bridges, as it focuses on promoting harmony, unity, and skills development among the youth.

In a country plagued by conflict for the past 50 years, collaboration and support from partners are crucial in bridging gaps and building connections between communities and conflicting parties.

He says the Scenius Hub exemplifies this mission by bringing together young people from diverse backgrounds and empowering them to work towards positive change in the country.

He encouraged the continuation of partnerships with the Dutch government.

Kwaje further emphasized that bridges often go unnoticed until they break, likening it to the value of peace only being realized in the absence of war.

“But I think now the fact that we’re commemorating it should inform people that there is work to be done,” he says.

He calls for continuous efforts to build bridges not only in infrastructure but also in communities, fostering togetherness and a sense of shared responsibility.


Enabling Economic Exchange

In her part, the Executive Director for Voice of Change, Lona James Elia, echoed that the bridge stands as a symbol of connectivity, enabling citizens to forge vital connections with neighboring countries like Uganda and Kenya.

She highlights how the bridge facilitated participation in workshops, seminars, and conferences that were previously inaccessible due to limited travel options.

It also provided networking opportunities with organizations like Voice for Change, fostering collaboration in activities that contribute to positive change, she says.

She says the bridge plays a crucial role in economic development by facilitating the movement of goods and services between South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya. This, in turn, allows for the sharing of knowledge, skills, and tariffs, as well as the promotion of joint border trades, particularly among women entrepreneurs.

The Juba Bridge’s lasting existence, Lona, says highlights the need for connection and collaboration, adding that it encourages citizens to find ways to bridge gaps and address differences, just as the bridge has been repaired and maintained over the years.

“The bridge’s preservation becomes a symbol of unity, peace, and progress for future generations. It serves as a reminder that, despite differences, South Sudanese must stand side by side, embracing democratic processes and focusing on national issues for the betterment of the country,” she says.


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